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Lessons in Homophobia with Rindy Aird

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Age 6:

Morally unconscionable was the first big word Rindy ever remembered hearing. She was playing in her room with the doll her mother and Therese had gotten her when she'd gone to visit last. She thought that was probably one of her favorite things about getting to visit her mother and Therese; they always got her something new each time she spent an evening or a weekend so she wouldn't have to feel so bad about not getting to see them again for a while. She got to see them both more often now though, now that her father was working more weekends, and so she was never quite as sad leaving them anymore.

Still, she'd never say no to new toys.

Her doll - Rindy had christened her Helen - was in the middle of selling the teapot from Rindys tea set to a big shot client, just like when her mother and Aunt Abby sold furniture, when Rindy heard a car pull up in the drive. She dropped her doll instantly knowing it was her grandparents, just back from their trip to Vermont, coming over to see her. They'd promised before they left it'd be the first thing they'd do once they got back.

She ran to the top of the stairs in time to see them breeze in the door, greeted by her father, but something about the look on her grandmothers face stopped her from skipping down the stairs to greet them with a hug. Instead she sat against the banister on the top step, just out of sight.

"Two weekends in a row Harge?" Her grandmother seemed angry.

"I've been working a lot of overtime mother and -"

"And your father and I are perfectly capable of looking after our granddaughter for a weekend."

Her father sighed. "And if you'd let me finish you'd know that I don't drop Rindy at yours because she sees you two all the time. She misses Carol. Hell she misses the shop girl as well and as much as I dislike it I'm not going to be the cause of my daughters unhappiness if I can help it."

Rindy wasn't sure who the shop girl was though she had a funny feeling it might be Therese, which was silly considering Therese worked for a newspaper, and not in a shop. She might have to explain this to her father later once he'd stopped arguing with her grandmother.

"It's wrong Harge," her grandmother snarled, sounding more upset than Rindy had ever heard her before. "It's... It's..."

"Morally unconscionable," her grandfather offered when her grandmothers sentence faltered.

Rindy wasn't sure what the word meant. She knew it was something to do with her mother and Therese though, and from the way everyone was speaking she knew it wasn't good.

She sat on the stairs a little longer listening to them argue, then went back to her room to play some more with her doll. She forgot to ever ask what the word meant.

Age 10:

"Mom..." Rindy didn't look up at her mother when she spoke. Instead she stared down at the dinner Therese had prepared, pushing about the peas with her knife until they lined up creating a divide between the pork and potatoes.

"Yes darling?" Her mother put down her fork and looked across the dinner table at her daughter.

"Are you and Therese faggots?" Now Rindy did look up with her knuckles, grasped around her knife, turning white in apprehension of the answer.

She had a theory on what the word may mean, though she wanted conformation, and when she looked across the table to find herself met with two blank stares she thought that may be all the confirmation she would need.

"Rindy where did you..." Her mother paused to clear her throat. She suddenly sounded emotional, and Rindy didn't miss Therese slipping her hand onto the dinner table to grasp her mothers own trembling one.

"Who told you that word?" Therese interrupted, and instead of focusing on how upset Therese sounded too Rindy focused on the way Therese's thumb slid over and back her mothers knuckles in soothing motions.

"Some older boys at school." Rindy shrugged at the memory, entirely unimpressed by the way the word had come into her vernacular. "They were talking to this guy Martin, saying he wanted to kiss fellas and then they called him a fa-"

"Don't," her mother all but hissed, cutting through the end of her sentence.

And Rindy knew right away. "It's not a nice word..." She didn't phrase it as a question because she already knew the answer, though Therese took it as such anyway.

"No..." She looked out of her depth, but continued anyway. "People use it to hurt people's feelings, those boys were saying it to hurt Martins feelings..."

"Why?" Rindy couldn't possibly fathom what it was about Martin they'd want to attack.

"Because my darling, not everyone is as kind as you," her mother explained softly, taking over from a clearly disturbed Therese. "But that's the worlds fault, not yours, so you need never change."

Rindy still didn't quite understand, though a year later she asked Martin to the school dance. Even let him kiss her on the cheek. No one had picked on him for liking fellas very much after that.

Age 14:

"Hey, sleepover this weekend?" Rindys best friend, Sally, called, jogging across the field in front of the school to meet Rindy as she stepped out the front gates.

"Can't," Rindy shrugged. "I'm staying at my moms this weekend and I've not seen her in a while because she's been outta town."

"Alright." Rindy could see the clogs in Sally's brain turning, trying to come up with an alternative. "I'll ask my mom if I can stay with you at your moms then!"

Rindy grimaced. She'd known since she'd become friends with Sally at the start of last year this topic would come up sooner or later.

"I don't think you're able to..." She explained awkwardly, her fathers stern warning ringing in her ears; don't you ever let anyone know about your mother and Therese, it'll embarrass you and it'll embarrass this family.

"Oh come on!" Sally prompted. "I've never met your mom before."

"Yes you have!" Rindy pushed back, feeling increasingly wary of the situation unfolding. "She picks me up from school sometimes."

"Okay well I've never met her properly," Sally corrected. "Plus you're always talking about how cool your moms apartment is and how close it is to everything with it being in the city..."

"Yea but I'm not really supposed to have friends over..." Rindy wanted more than anything to run, though her father would be furious if he were to know she'd gone home from school alone so right now she was stuck with Sally until they reached the turnoff for Rindys street.

"Why not?" Sally promoted and Rindy just shrugged. "C'mon, tell me?" Sally's whiny, demanding tone reminded Rindy of the tone she took when she was trying to figure out what guys Rindy fancied and the thought of her mothers life being reduced to the same level of petty playground gossip had Rindys insides churning.

"I just can't..." Rindy could see the road to her house, see freedom in front of her.

"Yes but there must be a reason?" Sally was like a dog with a bone, Rindy just shrugged again and quickened her step.

"Rindy." Something in the way Sally spoke made Rindy stop and turn around to face her. She looked mad, maybe even upset and suddenly Rindy felt a wave of guilt settling in the pit of her stomach. "I'm your best friend, there's nothing you can't tell me..."

And that was all it took for Rindy to decide to trust her. She was right after all, wasn't she? They were best friends and her mother and Therese's lives weren't that spectacularly different that her best friend wouldn't understand.

"My mom lives with someone... Called Therese." It was like ripping off a band aid.

"Like a housemate? Is your mom too poor to afford a place by herself...?" Sally wasn't quite grasping it and part of Rindy so desperately wanted to leave it at that, wanted to believe that a half truth was just as good as the full truth, and far superior to no truth at all.

Sally would no doubt still want to visit her mothers apartment though, and there'd be no way for Rindy to hide the full truth from her then. Family pictures, the mysterious lack of a spare room for Therese to sleep in, not to mention the matching gold bands sitting snug on her mother and Therese's ring fingers - an undocumented commitment they'd made one quiet Sunday afternoon when Rindy had been nine. No, there'd be no way of hiding the full truth from Sally. It was better to be upfront.

"No uh, they're not housemates. I mean, they are, but through choice, not uh... Not because they have to live together." Rindy was rambling now and she could tell from the way Sally's eyebrows knit together she wasn't quite following what was being said. She needed to bite the bullet. "They share a room," she blurted ineloquently. "They're like... Married."

She knew the second realization dawned on Sally's face that she'd made a mistake. She heard her fathers words again in her head though she knew now it wasn't the fear of embarrassment that had caused him to issue the warning, it was prejudice. "You can't tell anyone though," she insisted in an attempt to fix what she'd just broken. "No one can -"

"You think I'm going to tell anyone?" Rindy was shocked by the sharp edge to Sally's tone. "You think I want people knowing I was friends with someone whose mother's a degenerate?"

If Rindy wasn't so shocked she might have thought to slap Sally for what she'd just said though instead she turned on her heel and ran as fast as she could, careful not to let her tears fall until she was out of Sally's eyeline.

Two months later when her mother asked her why she never spoke about Sally anymore Rindy just shrugged and muttered about a falling out they'd had over boys - "Sally thinks every girl needs a fella to be happy, and I think that's small minded." Her mother had just smiled and she'd known then she made the right choice.

Age 18:

College was mind blowing to Rindy. New classes, new friends, even a new bedroom - tucked away in the back of the campus dorm buildings, and shared with a girl named Jennifer, who also happened to be Rindys new best friend and new favourite person to go to late night meetings with to discuss female empowerment with a group of women, students and lecturers alike, from around campus.

Equal pay for equal work.

Bodily autonomy.

An end to domestic violence.

All big buzz statements, but none the less statements Rindy was all too familiar with from her time spent around Therese and her mother. For example she knew Therese earned less than any of the male editors, even though she was deputy-chief photo editor for the Times. She also knew of a friend of Therese and her mother that had been forced to have a child she didn't want even after her relationship had gone sour.

She found it exhilarating to be able to talk about all this, openly and without fear of judgement, for an hour every Tuesday and Thursday evening with the same group of twenty or so women in one of the small classrooms at the back of the engineering building. Still though, there was one issue that never sat well with Rindy whenever it was brushed over by the group.

"That's not the only problem though..," Rindy snapped suddenly, cutting through the conversation about pay inequality that had been getting mulled over for the past half hour. "Yes part of the issue is that it creates a power imbalance in households when a man has the potential to earn more, but not every woman suffering as a result of this pay gap is living with a man, nor does she have any intention of ever living with a man and by boiling it down to how it effects women in relation to the man in their life you're ignoring a large chunk of women AND being really counter productive to the feminist movement."

"You're also looking at it from a white woman's point of view," someone behind Rindy piped up, causing the frown on the face of the girl who'd been speaking to settle in harder.

"Yea that too," Rindy tacked on, proud she wasn't the only one speaking out.

"Rindy what is your problem?" One of the girls that had been speaking earlier shot back. "Anytime we talk about anything you always bring it back to lesbian issues..."

"Because all you ever do is look at it from a straight persons point of view!" Rindy all but laughed, baffled by how they failed to see the flaw in their argument.

"Rindy," one of the lecturers spoke up; an older women Rindy had for one of her English classes. "Feminism is never going to be a popular opinion, not in my lifetime anyway, but it only works if it has mass support and so it's our duty to ensure that it appeals to as large and mainstream an audience as possible. Lesbianism and..." She looked at the girl behind Rindy that had also spoken. "The issues of racial minorities just aren't issues we can cater towards if we want this movement to be popular."

"Fuck being popular," Rindy snarled, standing and suddenly becoming aware of how little she actually liked the people around her. "I'll take being right any day over that."

She turned on her heel then and stormed out, only vaguely aware of other chairs scraping behind her as a handful of the room left in solidarity with her. She didn't wait for them though, just marched ahead until she was out of the building, the cool evening air being the first thing to calm her.

"Fuck being popular?" Rindy jumped at the sound of the voice behind her, though she instantly registered it as Jennifer's and turned slowly to face her. "Something tells me with an attitude like that you were never popular enough to have to worry."

She was teasing her and Rindy couldn't help but smile. "Yea well they were getting on my nerves," Rindy huffed, smiling briefly as faces she recognized from inside walked passed her and nodded in silent support, not bothering to stop and talk.

"Mine too," Jennifer agreed, shoving her hands into her pockets suddenly, almost as if she were nervous. "There's something I wanted to ask you though..." She began carefully, her tone catching Rindy off guard.

"I guess it's best to ask now while I'm feeling honest," Rindy joked, though it did little to lighten the mood.

"What was said in there about you always being the person to speak out in support of lesbians well, it's true I guess, it is always you and I was wondering..." She trailed off awkwardly, refusing to make eye contact.

"If I was speaking in favour of myself?" Rindy prompted, and Jennifer nodded quickly, her eyes darting up to meet Rindys.

"Yea..." She still sounded nervous, and Rindy already thought she knew where this might be going - she'd had a similar experience in her junior year of high school when Martin had asked her to go for a walk with him after school and he'd quietly explained his sexuality to her.

"My mother is one of the most important people in my entire world and when I was four she met a woman called Therese," Rindy began slowly, not caring that the story may seem off topic. "Therese is also one of the most important people in my entire world. They also happened to be married, or as close to married as two women can be, and so in a way I am speaking in favour of myself because I want to live in a world where people aren't offended or shocked by that." She paused for a moment to take stock of Jennifer's reaction - so far a lot better than she remembered Sally's reaction being all those years ago. "I'm not a lesbian, though some of the most important people in my life are, so I don't let them go without a say."

Jennifer cleared her throat slowly, and Rindy noticed the way she fidgeted with the hem of her jumper. "Don't suppose you have room for one more important person in your life being a lesbian?" She asked slowly, and Rindys heart almost broke over how nervous she sounded.

"I do," she nodded and smiled at the way a grin erupted across Jennifer's face. "Though fair warning now that my best friend's a lesbian everyone's going to insist I bring you around for dinner."

"Why do you preface that as a warning?" Jennifer laughed, obviously ecstatic at the thought of spending time with other women like her.

"Ah, Jen," Rindy sighed, throwing her arm around her friends shoulder so they could walk together back towards their dorm. "Let me tell you about my aunt Abby."

The dinner took place the following fortnight and Rindy spent the entire day in talks with her mother and Therese about how best to keep aunt Abby from being lewd - Therese had laughed at the very thought. Regardless, Jennifer enjoyed herself so much Rindy was even happy to overlook her aunts question on when Rindy would be bringing Jennifer, Martin and whatever other queers she'd accumulated over the years to her fathers for dinner.

Age 27:

She hadn't wanted a traditional wedding, she'd made that clear from the moment she'd asked Martin to be one of her groomsmen, along with Jennifer as her maid of honor. Much to her fathers dismay she'd also made that blatantly obvious the moment she'd asked if he'd mind sharing the duty of giving her away at the alter with her mother. She knew he'd say yes, knew he loved her too much to refuse such a simple wish.

Now though, now as she stood at the back of the chapel, her mother on one side and her father on the other she realized there was something else missing from her not entirely traditional wedding ceremony too.

Or rather someone.

She wasn't sure how her father would take it either.

"Martin..." She turned to her groomsman, standing behind her trying to fix the skirt of Jennifer's bridesmaid dress. "Get Therese."

"What?" Martin and her father spoke in unison.

"Get Therese..." Rindy repeated to her friend, then turned to her father. "The three of you raised me, the three of you will walk me down the aisle." She was firm and unwavering, leaving no room to argue.

"Rindy there are a lot of people out there... People that will talk."

"Then let them," Rindy shrugged. "You don't mind being talked about, do you mom?" She turned to her mother, not missing the way her eyes were glassed over with tears.

"No darling, as long as you're sure it's what you want."

"I am..." She turned to Martin again, still standing dumbly. "Can you -"

"Christ, I'll do it," Jennifer huffed, hiking up her dress and stepping around Martin to the side door into the chapel. "This is why I'm maid of honour and not you by the way," she added over her shoulder before disappearing.

"Who'll take pictures?" Her father asked, still fighting against the notion.

"Therese asked Danny to help out so she could enjoy the day as well," her mother explained. "He'll still be out there."

"This is what I want dad," Rindy explained softly.

"And what will Darren's family think?"

"I don't care," Rindy shrugged. "I'm marrying Darren, not his family, and if Darren loves me as much as I think he does he won't care what they think either," she explained at the same time Jennifer came back through the door, Therese close behind her.

"Honey, are you okay?" Therese started fussing over her dress, presuming something had come undone.

"I want you to walk me down the aisle." Rindy came straight out with it, and Therese instantly stopped her fidgeting.

"Me?" Therese dead panned.

"You." Rindy nodded confidently. "Along with mom and dad. All three of my parents, giving me away together." She could see tears in Therese's eyes now, and she was vaguely aware of her own tears forming too.

"Are you sure?" Therese was already smoothening invisible wrinkles on her dress, her eyes still wide in shock.

"I've spent my entire life hearing that you and mom were morally unconscionable, or faggots, or degenerates, or people not worth fighting for and today..." She took a breath, regarded her mother and Therese for a moment. "Today I just want you to be my moms."

"We can do that," Therese nodded, her tears falling freely now. "We can do that."

Rindy nodded then turned to her father. "Dad?" She didn't need his permission, but that didn't mean she didn't want it.

"I can do that too," he nodded, then offered his bent arm for her to slip her hand through.

"Thank you," she whispered, slipping her arm into his then doing the same with the arm her mother had offered her on the other side.

Therese in turn laced her fingers through her mothers hand and then they stood together silently, Martin and Jennifer flanked behind them, waiting for the music to start and for the world to see that her mother and Therese weren't any of the things people had vehemently labeled them over the years.

They were her mothers, simple as.